Campfire buns or fairy cakes
Our favourite traditional little sponge buns baked on a campfire.
Age Range: all ages
Duration: 1-2 hours
Time Of Day: any time
Category: bushcraft & survival food outdoors
You can use campfires to cook all sorts of cakes in different ways.
– Use a non-stick or lined pan over a gentle heat with the lid on to bake a larger, round sponge
– Use a pre-made packet mix or use your own recipe
– You could try any of your favourite recipes but we’d suggest you start simple.
Various ingredients can be mixed together and transported in tubs (dry mixed ingredients can also be stored for longer periods until you are ready to use them). You can also pre-prepare a whole cake mix and store it in a sealed air-tight container for a short time.
Whatever you choose, the most important factor when baking cakes over a fire is that the heat is even and not too hot. If the cake is exposed to too high a heat, or to direct heat, it will burn, and we’ve found that once a part of the cake burns, pretty much the whole thing tastes burnt. Yuck.
In this example we are cooking small sponge buns, also known as fairy cakes.
Set up a clean and stable work station with all your utensils on it.
Have your ingredients measured out and stored in tubs, and paper or silicone cake cases for baking.
For cooking you’ll need a Dutch oven or another pot that can provide all around heat, and a camp fire that has been built up and allowed to die down to embers.
175g self-raising flour
1tsp baking powder
125g caster sugar
125g unsalted butter, softened
1tsp vanilla extract
1tbsp of hot water
Foraged berries or other ingredients for flavouring (see our campfire cakes baked in oranges and bilberry jam recipes)
Put the flour and baking powder in a large bowl.
Add the sugar and mix.
Add the butter, eggs, vanilla extract and hot water (if needed) for consistency.
Beat until smooth.
If adding in extra (foraged) ingredients fold them in now.
Fill the bun cases 2/3 full with mixture.
Once you’ve got your fire going, allow it to die down to create a good bed of embers.
Nestle the container you are using as an oven into the embers and allow it to pre-heat.
A word about heat
If you are sure the heat is not too high, pop some grease-proof paper in the bottom to create a nest to prevent the cakes dripping and sticking to the oven base.
If you are not certain about the heat from the fire, we recommend making sure there is a gap between the base of the oven and the cake cases – use some bent wire or an upturned metal plate to sit your cakes on.
We like using silicone cake cases as they are reusable and hold the shape well, but you have to be careful not to melt them if your fire is too hot.
We had an absolute disaster with some buns sitting on the bottom of a Dutch oven totally melting our silicone cake cases, and had to throw everything away. Silicone heat rating differs but can be about 360 degrees(?). We think if they had been lifted off the base they would have been fine, so the key is make sure the embers are not too hot and, if in doubt, aim for absolutely no direct heat.
Baking your cakes
Carefully place the cakes into the pot and put the lid on.
It should take 15-30 minutes for your cakes to cook.
Poke a knife or skewer into one of the cakes when it looks ready – if it comes out clean your cake is baked – if there is sticky mix on it you need to let it cook a little while longer.
Take it further
Try some different recipes.
Ice your cakes or melt some chocolate over the top.
If you have the time and resources, bring extra bowls and scales and facilitate your group to follow a recipe and measure out their own ingredients.
How about making a little jam to go with the buns? We used bilberry jam that we’d made from berries collected earlier in the day. All cooked over a campfire in the campsite.